But before home town recipes… memories of student days in the kitchen!

waiting for a document to print I turned to the Guardian webpages to check progress on phonetapping hearings and saw this one:


It reminded me of cooking on a budget in my student days, both in Dublin (when studying for a Masters degree) and in Birmingham, while reading for my PhD.

In Brum budgeting was amazingly easy, thanks to the local food co-op (Sage, now no more… :() and to Simon, who used to deliver a huge veggie bag every Thursday for £8. No choice, just seasonal veg, but hey, so good!

That is when I learnt to cook parsnips and swede and to recognise and enjoy different types of chard and sorrel… and to make the most of pumpkins, as the Guardian piece also says!  Being a student on a little money also taught me how to bake my own bread (see my older post: https://arigoesaround.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/baking-day-in-fife/ on baking ventures!) and generally not to waste…

So, if you are looking forward to tonight and are carving your pumpkin, you’d do worse not to throw it away and cook with it. Risotto is great and so is soup… not to mention curry! IN addition to the “everything but the kitchen sink one” of my earlier post (https://arigoesaround.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/it-is-a-long-time-in-academia-just-as-in-politics/), I recommend this recipe, straight from the wonderful treasure trove website owned by Mamta Gupta, Indian chef extraordinaire and Mum to Kavey!


Fabulously tasty, this was my first brush with making pumpkin curry at home!  And of course, do not forget ‘bruscolini’ (as we call them in my hometown…), i.e. roasted and salted pumpkin seeds… no fat, no fancy stuff, best snack in town!

Happy Hallowe’en!


…it is a long time in academia–just as in Politics…

A week, that is!


Another week has almost gone and for us in Scotland the nights are significantly drawing in.  This means that as for this week I have become unable to make any after-work visits to my shared garden… 😦 no chat with my lady Cornelia and my meowing friend Charlie til the weekend!

Work has kept me busy–thankfully I had been organised at the weekend, making extra portions and freezing them for dinner!

Monday night saw me heating up some miso broth and using it to finish cooking some aubergine and mushroom stir fry with tofu! This is just easy–wash, finely chop and blanch a mix (to your liking) of white and red cabbage, carrots and zucchini, add some blanched  broccoli florets (these veg can be frozen after blanching and taken out and thrown in the wok without defrosting when needed) and tip in a bowl. Cover with 2 tbsp soy sauce mixed with the juice of half lime or lemon and 1/2tsp dried ginger.  Meanwhile heat some panch pooran (Indian 5 spice, available in Asian shops) on the bottom of a non stick wok til the seeds start to sizzle, then add 1/2 cup of boiled water in which you’ll have mixed 1 tsp miso paste (I use genmai but there are various types out there!) and some cubed tofu. Stir fry for 2/3 minutes then add the veggies with their marinade; stir fry for another 7/8 minutes, adding some extra time if the mix is still a bit watery and serve.

On Tuesday night I eventually finished the big pumpkin that had been lurking in the my fridge for a few days… 🙂 proper Halloween fare? No… I made curry with it, in a “throw everything in” fashion… seriously, curry is good and warming and a fantastic way of cooking any leftover veg you may have.  I added some cauliflower florets, the remainder of the white cabbage (from Monday), a can of plum tomatoes and some curry leaves… it was good!

After a rather “biblical” (so my friend Alessandra, contributor extraordinaire to this blog, said! :D) dinner of lentil and cereal soup last night, I am going out for dinner after a work do… the location will be a well-known, rather good establishment in Edinburgh New Town… who knows what will be on offer?

OK, 20min lunch break (from 2:50pm, not good) over…

but look forward to my next post on making Roman recipes for my hubby… 🙂

Friday night with my pals… and then hubby arrives!

Another week, another weekend… with nights drawing in I cannot believe we’re about to revert back to Winter time this Sunday!

I was fortunate enough to meet up with my friends Paolo and Alessandra (also contributor for this blog–look forward to her bread making tips and Sicilian recipes!) for a drink after work–we headed to Doctors’, just across the way from the old Medical school building of Teviot and the top of Middle Meadow walk.  Lots of good beers on tap–I enjoyed Hop Scotch, from the rather good offerings of the Borders Brewery–so make sure you stop by!

I came home and set out to make dinner for my hubby, on his way back from Manchester–don’t we just miss the North West of England? Sure we do, we lived in Liverpool for 5 years so any opportunity is good to go back that way! 🙂

The colder weather has made a difference to what I make… more baked dishes and soups and stew… and still, I have not finished a big pumpkin yet–so far it’s made a meal for 3 and 3 meals for one, an amazingly good saver!

So hubby got baked cod with potatoes–nice and easy, wash the cod and put it on an oiled oven dish, then top with thinly sliced potatoes and drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and parsley. Bake in the oven at 200C for about 30 min.

I made some nice pumpkin tart instead… my usual recipe for shortcrust pastry is as follows

– for one: 120g flour, 30g margarine, 2 tbsp. water.

Crumble the marg in the flour til it all looks like breadcrumbs, then slowly add the water. Knead to a smooth dough, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 15 min.

In the meantime slice thinly the pumpkin flesh and an onion, put both in a bowl and mix in some lemon juice, a drizzle of cider vinegar, a pinch of salt and some dried rosemary.

Roll out the pastry and top its centre with the veggies, then lift the edges and seal them on top of the vegetables. Bake for 30min at 220C.

Tomorrow the forecast is uncertain but I very much hope for a visit to the shared garden… the afternoon will be spent with my lovely friends of the St Vincent DePaul conference and our beloved ladies and gents who’ll be enjoying an afternoon of music, cannot wait!

‘Nite all…

Waste not… reuse yes!

Yesterday’s post on leaf salad risotto made me think more carefully about what I usually use my perishables for, especially when they get close to the use by date.

A few days ago, an article on the BBC magazine suggested that yoghurt can last well beyond its use by date–see here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-24305902.

Well, I can testify that it is true–I sometimes keep using yoghurt without necessarily checking and so far it has worked alright. Of course, as I said, employing my sense of smell and some common sense have helped me.  As I once heard at a workshop on cheese tasting, the nose is perhaps the most acute instrument when it comes to evaluating dairy!

So, this brings me to yoghurt… now, I must confess that I eat LOADS of the stuff–especially plain one… but when I have a glut and the use by date looms large, I like to cook with it…

Natural yoghurt makes a lovely topping for curries and chilis and also the basis for many sauces and condiments.  It can also be used for baking–for instance, mixed with chapati flour and worked into a yeast sponge mixture, proven overnight, it makes lovely, fluffy naan bread!

However, if you are after a wholesome and quick dinner dish and have yoghurt to spare, this is for you!

Creamy mushroom pasta

for 1

300g mushrooms (to your choice), washed, wiped and sliced

1 clove garlic

2 tbsp low fat margarine or 1 tbsp olive oil

4 tbsp white plain flour

200g yoghurt plus 2 tbsp water

80g pasta of your choice (you can have more or less of pasta, to your taste and level of hunger! 🙂 the shape is not critical).

heat the oil or marg in a non-stick frying pan, then add the garlic. Make sweat til pearly, then remove; start adding the flour, mixing all the way to avoid clumps; once the flour is well coated, start adding the yoghurt and water if required.  Keep stirring until you reach a creamy consistency, then leave to simmer just for a minute, to set; add the mushrooms with a pinch of salt, cover and let sautee for 8/10min. Mushrooms contain a lot of water, but do not worry–the water will evaporate once you add the pasta.

Meanwhile bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the packet; drain when al dente, then add to the mushroom mixture and stir on a high heat. Serve at once–top with fresh yoghurt or some grated grana padano.

OK, late lunch break over (yes, I know… 15 min at 2:25pm, not good)… back soon! 🙂

(Not so) latest news–supermarkets waste food…

This week we heard yet the latest report on a big supermarket chain having to admit to significant quantities of food being wasted: from salad to bread to yoghurt and cheese, you name it–it makes you cringe! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24603008

This is by no means the first report of this kind, and won’t be the last–only la few months back Greener Scotland said that a family of four routinely wasted (for one reason or another) enough food to feed an extra person (watch the little movie, it is very instructive! http://www.greenerscotland.org/eating-greener/food-waste).

Perhaps we should rely more on our sense of smell and sight and on our common sense rather than on sell-by or best-before dates? Maybe so, although I would not want to risk my health in doing so–e. coli and salmonella usually find a breeding ground in certain foods, if the latter are left there too long…

However, if you have a glut of something or see that the use by date is fast approaching, fear not==there are many good dishes you can cook by using stuff like salad, yoghurt and other perishables.

My aunt, also known as ‘la zia Lalla’, taught me this very simple soupy risotto dish–she makes it with romaine or round lettuce, but I have happily tried making it also with leaf salad!

For 2

1 (125g) bag salad leaves

1 small onion

2 tbsp olive oil

120g rice (any type you like, I use arborio but it is not critical)

salt and pepper to taste

1 stock cube

about 1/2 pint boiling water

heat the oil in a saucepan and sweat the chopped onion til translucent. Add the rice and stir it well so that it coats in the oil; dissolve the stock cube in the boiling water and add to the pan. Bring to a simmer and let it cook for about 8/9 minutes. Add the salad leaves, salt and pepper and let it simmer again for another 7/8 min til the rice is tender.

Serve with some grated parmigiano or grana… or if you like creaminess, a dollop of cottage cheese.

OK, time to finish my chapter… before my yoga class!

Autumn gardening



the leaves are down you know but we’re all still busy gardening and gathering.

At the request of my dear lady Cornelia, whose garden I tend thanks to her generosity, I am now looking after two crops of spinach (she likes it!)… one is salad  spinach, Fiorano II variety, the other is instead the classic large leaf winter one… this morning the Fiorano look great all glistening… a good pick was had and more is to come! The winter one needs a bit more, although the seedlings are promising. In the meantime, here is a recipe with salad spinach just to keep you going!

Spinach and potato omelette

for 1

2 medium free range eggs

1 clove garlic

2 medium potatoes, cubed and boiled for 15 min in plenty of water

a handful of spinach

1 tbsp. milk.

2 tsp olive oil

Heat the oil in a non stick pan and sweat the garlic; in the meantime beat the eggs and milk in a bowl; add the potatoes to the pan and stir gently to coat, then pour over the egg mixture. Fry for about 7/8 min   til set, then either flip it over by helping yourself with a plate or place under the broiler for 8 min.  In any event, halfway through top with the spinach and leave to set til nicely browned. Serve at once!

Baking day in Fife!

I love baking bread but I never learnt systematically. So, how about a proper workshop?

Thanks to the lovely people of the Real Bread Campaign (check them out, they’re amazing! http://www.sustainweb.org/realbread/) I got to know about Bread in Fife, a fantastic family enterprise led by Colin Lindsay, in Freuchie, Fife.

In his lovely kitchen we gathered, 4 of us (Dugald and his lady Janet and Derek and myself) and were led into the discovery of baking by fantastic teacher Colin… it was an eye opener! It is so clear now how things actually “happen” in the proving and the actual baking… clear now that Colin told us, yet it makes so much sense.  We spent the morning looking at yeast and sponge starters and we also made some oatcakes (I will never buy them again, they’re that easy!!)… for lunch we had some salad and cheese with the pitta bread we ourselves made, how nice! And then we filled the afternoon with wholemeal loaves and kneading, proving and baking rolls.

Baking bread is one of the more “human” things, so easy and satisfying, yet so engaging. I would recommend it for anyone. It just is something that nourishes you even before you eat!  If you are in Scotland or fancy a trip to the Kingdom of Fife, think about a class with Colin. He is a truly amazing man, a really kind and compassionate teacher and the day was truly hands on and constructive. Find out more at http://www.breadinfife.co.uk/. The course I did is Bread Essentials… and I am going to sign up, I think, for another one soon, this time on French and Italian breads!